In ear monitors can be a great purchase for any serious musician that is looking to get the best sense of what the music sounds like. After all, you are in a band and you’re all contributing to the overall sound. If even one person cannot hear the other instruments, or even their own, then chances are you will never truly be in sync nor will you be getting the true “feel” from the music.
If you think about it, not being able to hear your own instrument is a huge disadvantage and an amateur move that can really bring down your band’s live sound. Now, if you are just the average cover band having fun and enjoying the local troll hole bar, then you may not need to take it as seriously. If you are standing close enough to your amp or the wedge monitor you might hear well enough to get by with a decent sound. When it comes to larger venues, theaters, or even playing outside, not being able to hear yourself can be devastating to your playing ability.
You might be out of tune, or accidentally playing the wrong part of the song. Maybe the lead guitar player is off timing but doesn’t even realize it. If the drummer of all people loses track of his/her place in the song, then the whole set can get burned to the ground. And if there’s one group of people who do realize that things are off, it’s the crowd.
When it comes to selecting the right in ear monitors, there are a few things to consider, one of them being comfort. Everyone is different, and each musician would generally benefit from custom in ear monitors because no two people have the same shape or even jaw and head motions while playing live on stage. However, this can be on the pricier side and not everyone can afford to shell out for custom ear monitors, especially if you are not a professionally touring band. Even still, comfort and fit should be a high priority when selecting the right pair for you. You do not want to be up there trying to rip through a guitar solo or drum fill when you’re constantly nagged by an annoyance in your ear. Singers can also get particularly distracted and when it comes to hitting the right notes, you want to be 100% focused on execution and not the distractions from your own monitors.
Let’s talk a little bit about the dynamic of sound and the feel of the music. We’ll a take a look at two different scenarios to emphasize a greater point about the quality of your live sound, which stems from chemistry and balance on stage.
Drummer #1 can’t hear very well on stage. His own kit is too loud and the wedge monitor (provided by the venue) keeps cutting out on him. He is left fumbling about and trying to lay down a beat on memory alone, as well as a small cue here and there from the guitar player, bassist or singer. He thinks he knows what part of the song is next, and he is planning on trying a great new fill he practiced. The problem is, he can’t quite tell because the other musicians are too into their playing and aren’t really providing any visual clues. He’s lost!
He therefore decides to just skip the new fill because it’s too risky and he might ruin the tempo or timing for the rest of the band. He tries to maintain his focus by paying attention to visual cues rather than hearing for sure where they are in the progression of the song.
Drummer #2 on the other hand is right in the pocket. He can hear every single nuance of the guitar player’s string bends and bluesy feel. The bassist is laying down a hell of a rhythm and the singer is right on key. The vibe and chemistry is going extremely well, specifically because he knows for sure what he’s hearing, and knows his place in the song. He decides on the fly to add some flare to his beats, or inject some interesting fills here and there to keep it interesting. The guitarist continues to provide cues through his playing that he can distinctly hear – the end of the bridge, the beginning of the verse, the end of the chorus. His in ear monitors are delivering it straight to him and together they are putting on a hell of a show.
The point here is that if you have more information available, if you can definitely hear the soul of your band’s playing, then your overall sound will reflect that. If everyone got custom in-ear monitors, imagine the possibilities!
Now, sound guys and venue equipment will of course come into play. As mentioned previously, some crappy bar on the corner might not even have a sound guy let alone wedge monitors. The expensive wireless in ear monitors you just bought will do you absolutely no good. In fact, in ear monitoring in general will be a complete waste to anyone who plays in this type of situation consistently. Unless you see yourself playing some reputable venues where there is a chance that you’ll have a good sound guy and a good foundation of equipment available, then it may not even be worth it in the end.
Singers, drummers, and guitarists can all benefit from a good product in the right situation. We have compiled our list of in ear monitor reviews so that you can determine what might be the best setup for you. If you are serious about putting on a good show and creating chemistry with your band, then looking into quality ear monitoring could prove to be extremely beneficial in the long run. Make sure you do the proper amount of research, go for comfort and fit to ensure that they feel good, and most of all have some fun rocking out with soul. Combine forces to create some of the best music the world has ever heard!